These are a few of my favorite things.
What it is: A free site that lets you record, catalog, and organize the books you’ve read and want to read. It also lets you see what friends are reading and makes book recommendations based on books you’ve already read.
How to use Goodreads to improve your writing: Start an account. Add the books you’ve read. Make bookshelves for writing traits you admire and types of writing you enjoy. For example, you can have a shelf for good characterization, poetic language, suspense, or historical fiction. Note that the same book can be on multiple shelves, so if your favorite historical fiction also uses poetic language, the book can serve as an example of both. As you write, when you feel that you need an example of a certain type of writing, click on the bookshelf and look through the titles to see what might be useful.
How to use Goodreads in a class on breaking writing rules: Specifically pay attention to the books that have broken certain rules and put them in categories. This way you have a ready catalogue for writing models and reassurance that you are in good company. As an example, here is my shelf for books that break common writing rules.
What it is: “Tropes” are storytelling devices and conventions. TVtropes.org is a writing-related wiki site, which is a site like Wikipedia that invites contributions from lots of users.
How to use TVtropes.org to improve your writing: Look up your favorite movies and TV shows. Look at the devices used in them. Then read the list of other TV shows and movies that have used the same trope.
How to use TVtropes.org for a class on breaking writing rules: sometimes you will see that a trope has been “subverted,” which means broken on purpose. Here is the definition of “Subverted Trope” on TVTropes. The examples using the car chase and sheet of glass are especially helpful. Below that you will see examples of subverted tropes in a variety of TV shows and films. It’s also worth checking out “Not a Subversion,” which explains other ways of breaking rules such as “inverted trope,” “averted trope,” and “justified trope.”